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Critical Collaboration Skills for Employees

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Effective collaboration requires a lot from your employees. And having the right skills can help make collaboration thrive. Here are six skills that enable collaboration (and how you can foster them in your employees).

Collaboration is about bringing people from different departments, locations and teams together and then focusing their efforts on a common goal. But that only works if everyone is on the same page when it comes to skills. Collaboration is a process, but good collaboration is a skill that improves over time.

You can try to acquire "collaborative skills", but if the conditions for a collaborative environment are not already in place, collaboration cannot flourish. In this article, we'll take a look at some of the skills needed for effective collaboration and what leaders can do to create the conditions for collaboration and help people refine their skills.

Let's get right to the point.


One of the most important aspects of good cooperation is to be open to new ideas and to accept them. When people come into this boardroom to discuss a project, all of whom come from a different perspective and a different area of expertise, there will inevitably be a flood of ideas on the table about how to proceed - ideas that will be unusual, new, exciting and possibly difficult to understand.

People who are curious by nature will thrive in such an environment, but those who are a little more resistant to new ideas may be able to bring the project to a halt or otherwise disrupt it before it has even begun. And since curiosity and open-mindedness are among the basic building blocks of collaboration, leaders will need to find ways to encourage them in their people.

Another thing you can do to encourage acceptance of new ideas is to set some parameters for what is discussed in a particular session or discussion. For example, if your project requires a brainstorming session, make it clear that all ideas are on the table before an idea can be shot down or picked apart. In this way, [all ideas have an equal chance to be heard, considered and criticized or expanded. Formalizing this process will gradually refine one of the key competencies for effective collaboration.

You May Also Want to Read... 10 Tips to Improve Team Building for Remote Workers


Clear and well thought-out communication is another must for successful cooperation. Your employees must be able to express themselves mutually. The problem is that people communicate differently. Some of us feel completely comfortable when speaking in groups, others do not. And promoting clear and open communication means paying attention to different communication styles and adapting the way you communicate accordingly.

Collaboration typically has a social component - making oneself understood in meeting rooms and sharing things - leaders (and everyone else in a team) need to be aware that project team members may not feel comfortable speaking.

Here is what you can do:
  • Communicate with people in the way they prefer to communicate. For example, shy people, who account for up to 40% of American adults, may prefer written communication over oral communication
  • Give everyone a voice. An intranet platform or collaboration tool that gives people a place to communicate freely is an excellent way to facilitate collaboration in the workplace
  • If someone is not a great communicator and you have difficulty understanding their idea or point of view, make an effort to understand them. This can be done privately or in a meeting room, but should always be approached tactfully. Do not ignore someone's thoughts simply because they have difficulty articulating them

Encouraging a collaborative environment means making room for all kinds of communication and communicators. Your collaborative process should include alternative forms of communication, otherwise your most outspoken people will steal the show. It is difficult to help people improve their communication skills, but it can be done once they feel more comfortable.


Collaboration can only be successful if people are able to delegate their workload, take care of their responsibilities and organize themselves - and for this reason, organization is another critical skill of collaboration. Ideally, this is not a skill that you need to teach your people (assuming, of course, that you have made an effort to hire organized people). But sometimes things do not work out as planned.

Leaders can train their people to be more organized by making collaboration part of everyone's daily routine. If your people have to coordinate project responsibilities with each other on a regular basis, chances are that they will learn to organize their time and workload fairly quickly, especially if it affects their colleagues' work on the same project.

Long-term thinking

Another extremely important component of cooperation is the ability to think long-term and to imagine the end result of the joint work. Collaboration is about working towards a common goal or purpose and seeing how your contributions fit into that goal. For people who want to improve their collaboration skills, this means gaining an understanding of the scope of a project and the role of each individual in it. The more you know about the focus of a particular project, the better equipped you are to make it happen. For leaders, you need to adequately explain the "why" of a project.


Let's be honest: joint projects often don't run as planned. Priorities shift, obstacles delay progress, and problems arise that catapult the entire project into complete confusion - all of this could lead us to sit back and walk away. Of course, in the workplace this is usually not an option. To hold out, people need to be able to adapt right away.

Adaptability is a crucial ability to work together, but it is another one of those hard-to-learn skills. Adapting well to change requires practice and experience. My advice here is to lead by example. Has everything gotten all messed up? Has an unforeseen problem delayed all progress on an important project? The best thing is to stay calm and concentrate on the next steps. Promote adaptability by skipping the initial freak-out phase and brainstorming for a solution to the problem. You are a calm, cool and collected employee, right? That's right.


Another skill that makes you a more effective employee is the ability to discuss ideas with your colleagues in a tactful and productive manner (without taking it too personally). When you are in the meeting room with your project team, debate is often the engine of innovation: good ideas take precedence, not so good ideas take a back seat, and the project moves forward. But debating well can be very difficult, especially if you are emotionally attached to your argument.

For leaders, this means creating a cooperative environment in which friendly, constructive debate is encouraged and, if necessary, regulated. Again, this does not necessarily have to be a verbal, personal debate (but it will probably be one component). You could set up a discussion or chat channel where people can find out why the project requires X. The point is to make sure that the debate is always: task-oriented, productive, polite.

In this way, you improve your people's ability to offer constructive criticism, advance ideas and facilitate collaboration.


Creating an environment in which collaboration thrives means anticipating how collaboration might break down and taking steps to prevent it before it does. A truly collaborative workplace is a workplace where everyone in the entire organization has a voice, equal rights and the ability to contribute their skills and abilities to the project at hand. To integrate collaboration into the culture of your organization, you should focus on developing your employees' ability to work together.

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